A question I have heard often asked, “What kind of offerings should we make to ….?” can often result in head scratching and uncertainty. In Gentlidecht na gCuanaigh I have made an effort to make the selection of offerings as simple as possible. My methods are based on 20+ years of experience working with the beings in question but by no means are these the only offerings or offering method they would accept.
Aos Si, wights, genus loci, nature spirits, fea folk, whatever you want to call them, are the spirits of the world. In Gentlidecht na gCuanaigh I use the phrase, Aos Si, to mean all the spirits that are not included in my understanding of the gods and the ancestors, however when I make our offerings I actually make two separate offerings to two separate groups: the local nature spirits, and the family/house spirits. Experience has taught me that these beings are not of the same nature and so what they require and what is appropriate are very different.
The spirits of the house and family appear to be beings that have traveled with families and down family lines from our various homelands, mine is Western and Northern Europe, and so I look to the traditions found in Ireland, Scandinavia and Germany to know what offerings to make to them. In my house I leave offerings of sweets for the beings I call gnomes, to keep them from hiding my things. During a ritual I will make a general offering of milk and honey to the house spirits for their continued good will by setting the offering plate to the side near the domicile structure. If I am doing an outdoor ritual that is not part of a home I do not include this offering. When the ritual is complete I will add it to the fire or throw it away, vermin are a real issue in my area.
The second group of aos si, are the truly local beings, the ones that have lived here since who knows when. For these beings I look to the local cultures for guidance, not only on what to offer, but what not to offer. In my group we always offer up smoke from herbs that were sacred to the local indigenous tribes, as best we know, and we never offer them alcohol. I usually burn a bit of the herb for the smoke, then then toss the rest into the fire.
For the ancestors I have chosen to include them in the ritual meal. There is usually some food prepared before the ritual that can be used to make a small plate for the ancestors. Unlike most offerings which go into the fire or a pit the ancestor plate is left out until after the meal and then disposed of with the thought that they have consumed what they needed and the rest is not suitable for consumption.
The tribes of gods in Irish literature are identified as the Tuatha Dé Danann, Firbolgs, and
Fomorians. In Gentlidecht na gCuanaigh I include the deified river spirits of my local region in the greater pantheon. As offerings to the gods in Ireland, I use brewed alcohol, beer or mead. When I make offerings specific to the local land goddesses I chose to use corn meal to represent the harvest that would
not be – without them. Like the local spirits, I don’t wish to honor them with a substance that helped destroy the culture of the aboriginal people. While I pour the liquid to the side of the fire I always put the corn meal on the ground as a direct offering.
Things get more complicated as we look at individual beings. In ancient cultures, the proscribed method and offering would have been documented so that the priesthood would be consistent. No such document exists (if it ever did) for the heathen Irish so we are left to our own devices and whatever folklore remains. Instead of listing each being and telling you what I have used as an offering, I am going to suggest you read about and commune with the being to learn what they may want as an offering. To help you out I will provide an example in Manannan Mac Lir, a god that is frequently worshiped by Irish Polythiests.
Manannan Mac Lir has many tales of him in Ireland but none are useful in identifying offerings. However, there remains folklore from the Isle of Man that relates to us that every Midsummer the Manx would offer bundles of reeds, meadow grasses, and yellow flowers as means of “paying of the rent” to ensure the safety of the island and a good fishing harvest. In Gentlidecht na gCuanaigh, we follow this tradition by offering bundles of reeds, meadow grasses, or yellow flowers to Manannan each year as part of Lá Fhéile Oirbsen, which is held near Midsummer.
So the intent of this post was to help folks with the identification of offerings for the gods and ungods. My approach is simple and proscriptive but it has been effective as far as I have been able to determine. I hope I demonstrated as well how you can learn more specific offerings for whatever beings you are seeking to honor in your own practice.
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